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Limitations to Restorative Justice

Are there cases or situations in which restorative justice cannot be used, or should be used only with great care?

Tutu, Desmond. The Truth and Reconciliation Process: Restorative Justice
Presenting the Third Longford Lecture at Church House Westminster in 2004, Archbishop Desmond Tutu reflects on the truth and reconciliation process in South Africa as part of the transition from an apartheid to a post-apartheid society. He points out that negotiators of the peace that ended the conflict had to decide how to deal with the legacy of apartheid. They settled on what they considered a principled compromise - individual, not general, amnesty in exchange for the whole truth relation to the offense for which amnesty was being sought. In short, they opted for a process of "amnesty for truth." With all of this in mind, and with a focus on South Africa, Archbishop Tutu considers issues of truth, justice, amnesty, restorative justice, and reconciliation in relation to crimes and injustices.
Umbreit, Mark S and Vos, Betty and Coates, Robert B. Restorative Justice in the 21st Century: A Social Movement Full of Opportunities and Pitfalls
The restorative justice movement is grounded in values that promote both accountability and healing for all affected by crime. It emphasizes positive human development, mutuality, empathy, responsibility, respect, and fairness. Yet the principles and practices of the restorative justice movement are not inherently benign, incapable of doing harm. In fact, as in so many other movements and interventions grounded in lofty values and good intentions, reports of unintentionally harmful consequences or outcomes surface periodically.(extract)
Van Garsse, Leo and Aertsen, Ivo. Restorative Justice and More Serious Offences: Beyond the Diversion-Inclusion Debate.
It is quite appealing to defend the idea of restorative justice as applicable to more serious crimes and to see it not just as a diversionary measure. The enthusiasm which embraces this idea, and the few experiments we witness, veil the fact that in a quantitative way the impact of victim-offender mediation and conferencing remains very limited in most countries, and that in reality most restorative justice practices deal mainly with minor offences committed by juvenile offenders. How realistic is it to overcome the gap between theoretical ambitions and reality? (excerpt)
Voth, David. The Victim Justice Ship in the Restorative Justice Harbor
The author notes that workshops on the role of crime victims in restorative justice theory and programming usually center on anecdotal victim sensitivity stories, illustrations of victim offender mediation, and exhortations to include victims as stake holders in the justice process. These activities should continue, but reaching a safe harbor where the victim justice ship can dock requires additional channel buoys. Although we see dimly the shores of restorative justice, it must include healing oriented processes for all participants even before the conclusion can be determined collaboratively between victim, community, and offender. To move toward that place in history, some system changes and victim issues need to be addressed.
Weitekamp, Elmar G. M. "Can Restitution Serve as a Reasonable Alternative to Imprisonment? An Assessment of the Situation in the USA."
Despite the fact that restitution and mediation advocates in the USA and Canada have claimed that they could serve as valuable alternatives to incarceration, evaluations of restitution and mediation programs show that this is not the case. They lead to higher rates of incarceration, use too rigid selection criteria, and thus only serve first-time offenders, property offenders, and offenders who are white and middle-class. The only existing program in which restitution has been used as an alternative to incarceration and which has served a large, metropolitan minority clientele that committed mostly serious, violent crimes is in Philadelphia. Other programs need to expanding their services in this way to succeed.
What is justice? State program brings victims and offenders face to face
Martha Early, a middle-aged single mother, and Andrew Papke, the chaplain's assistant, sit silently across from each other in the chapel, their hands clasped tightly across a wooden table. To Early's right sits a stack of pictures of her daughter Beth, killed -- along with her boyfriend, Daniel London -- by a teenage drunken driver in 1996. In front of her sits a well-worn binder bursting with colorful stationery and letters full of memories of Beth; she brought them to share with Andrew. Next to the binder is her Bible. Early gazes at Papke with a look of calm sadness, while Papke's head hangs solemnly. Seconds turn into minutes, and neither one moves. It seems as if the slightest murmur would send them back to earth, where they will be forced to communicate with words. Finally, Early squeezes Papke's hand. "I love you, Andrew," she whispers. "I love you, too," he answers hoarsely. Within moments, Papke's arms -- the very same arms that steered a car headlong into Beth Early -- are encircling her mother. After engaging in a brief hug, Martha Early gets ready to begin her three-hour drive back to Austin. Andrew returns to his prison cell at the Walls Unit in Huntsville, where he is serving 40 years for intoxication manslaughter.
Wright, Martin and Guy Masters. "Justified criticism, misunderstanding, or important steps on the road to acceptance?"
The authors point out that restorative justice, now more than twenty years old as a movement, has both advocates and detractors. They examine certain arguments against restorative justice to judge their validity. One set of arguments they consider, from an English context, come from victim-oriented concerns for victim’s rights and needs. Another set of arguments, from an American context, come from offender-oriented concerns for due process and just deserts. Examples of critiques of restorative justice from a victim-based perspective include the following concerns. Are the rights, interests, and feelings of victims sufficiently reckoned and respected by restorative justice principles and practices? Are victims coerced and burdened – that is, further “victimized�? – by objectives and processes of restorative justice (such as victim/offender mediation)? Examples of critiques of restorative justice from an offender-based perspective include the following concerns. Do restorative justice practices lead to unfair variations (inconsistencies) in the treatment of offenders? Are restorative justice processes (especially victim/offender mediation) really schemes serving middle and upper class interests against minority and lower class offenders? Also, do restorative processes (again, the emphasis is on victim/offender mediation) treat victims with great respect while offenders are treated as problems to be managed, shamed, and conditioned?
Zehr, Howard. Values and Principles in the Practice of Restorative Justice.
Restorative justice has come a long way since the first experiments with victim-offender encounters in North America in the 1970s. The trickle has now become a river, branching out into many directions we never envisioned in those early days: situations of severe violence, school discipline, workplace conflicts and grievances, even societal-level conflicts and wrongs, to name just a few. In addition to victim offender mediation, “new” models of practice have emerged including family group conferences and circle processes. In the Ukraine, victim offender mediation is relatively new but the restorative justice stream is flowing here as well. Overall, charting the restorative justice river is both hopeful and inspiring. But the rapid rise and spread of this river also causes concerns. The example of past criminal justice reforms, at least in the United States, sends out warning signals. So many so-called reforms have ended up being something different than what the designers intended. So often they been co-opted into something else, sometimes creating situations as bad or worse than those they were intended to improve. The alternatives to prison movement of the 1970-80s is but one example: instead of reducing reliance on prisons, the movement expanded the state’s net of punishment and control. In the United States, this has resulted in unprecedented numbers of people, especially members of minority groups, under the control of the criminal justice system. (excerpt)
Zernova, Margarita. Restorative Justice Outside the Criminal Justice System. How Far Can We Go?
Traditionally, restorative justice is thought of as something that occurs after a crime has been committed. It is considered a particular process, or practice, which takes place either within the criminal justice system or as a form of diversion from that system. This paper will challenge some of these assumptions, explore some more radical possibilities for the development of restorative justice, examine their advantages and alert to potential problems and dangers. I want to begin with an attempt to clarify exactly what we mean by 'restorative justice outside the criminal justice system.' Are we talking about particular programs, practices, or processes? Or are we talking about something much broader xe2x80x93 a particular philosophy, a particular set of values, a particular way of thinking about the world and relating to others? The first part of this paper will attempt to deal with the question xe2x80x98how far can we go?xe2x80x99, while conceptualising restorative justice as a particular practice. The second part will use the term 'restorative justice'in a much broader sense. (excerpt)

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